Ghosts of the Civil Rights Era: It’s Never too Late for Justice

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The Strathmore Speaker Series is proud to announce that Professor Janis McDonald of the Syracuse University College of Law, will speak on the Cold Case Initiative at the Onondaga Park Firebarn on Thursday, April 13th at 7 pm. Like all Strathmore Speaker Series events, this presentation is free and open to the public.

“It’s Never Too Late for Justice.” It’s a simple statement, but one that cuts right to the heart of the Cold Case Justice Initiative. Founded in 2007, by Janis McDonald, a professor at the Syracuse University College of law, and her colleague Professor Paula C. Johnson, the initiative was born out of a desire to help families obtain justice for loved ones killed in acts of racial hatred and violence during the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s.

The impetus to create the initiative evolved from a request by the family of Frank Morris to reopen the investigation into his unsolved murder.

Morris, a 51-year-old African American business owner in Ferriday, Louisiana, had been held at gunpoint and forced into the back of his burning store by suspected members of the Ku Klux Klan on December 10, 1964. He died four days later, with burns covering nearly the entirety of his body. Although a contemporary investigation by the FBI yielded witnesses who identified two local law enforcement officers as being among those responsible for Morris’ death, no charges or indictments followed, and the case was eventually dropped and forgotten.

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Frank Morris (fourth from left) in front of his store.

Collaborating with journalist Stanley Nelson of the Louisiana Delta Concordia Sentinel some forty years later, the Cold Case Initiative uncovered enough credible evidence to persuade the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, and the District Attorney for Concordia Parish, Louisiana, to form a joint alliance to investigate the newly reopened Frank Morris murder case.

Since this early success, the initiative has received requests for assistance from countless other victims’ families and met with former Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss the need for a special taskforce dedicated to addressing cold cases from Mississippi and Louisiana. In that time, more than fifty College of Law students have volunteered for the project.

coldcaseWebIn addition to co-directing the initiative, McDonald teaches Constitutional Law, Investigating and Reopening Civil Rights Era Murders, Criminal Law, Employment Discrimination and American Legal History at Syracuse. She also co-teaches the interdisciplinary course “Investigating and Reopening Civil Rights Era Murders,” which pairs graduate students from the College of Law with students from Syracuse’s other graduate schools. The course received the 2008 Syracuse University Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship in Action.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, McDonald was a member of the law firm of Hirschkop & Grad, P.C. in Alexandria Virginia where she litigated cases in federal and local courts in the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia. She also taught at Ohio Northern University College of Law and Yale Law School, and was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Public and International Law. She has written several articles on civil rights litigation and American legal history, including some which have been cited by federal courts. She has served as president of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations and co-founded the Virginia Women Attorneys Association.

Strathmore Speaker Series on Facebook Live

Don’t want to brave the cold or can’t make today’s Strathmore Speaker Series event, but still interested in what Roy Simmons Jr. and Alf Jacques have to say? Why not watch live or later from home?

The Strathmore Speaker Series will be broadcasting live from the Onondaga Park Firebarn via Facebook Live. 2 pm doesn’t work for you? Still not a problem! A full recording of the event will be available after the event.

Both can be found on the Strathmore Speaker Series Facebook page at facebook.com/strathmorespeakerseries.

 

The Strathmore Speaker Series is Proud to Announce its Spring 2017 Season

The Strathmore Speaker Series is proud to announce its Spring 2017 lineup. The season will kickoff on Thursday, February 18th at 7 pm with a presentation by fitness guru and life coach, Nick Murphy, who first gained fame for helping a local man lose 425 pounds. Our second event of the season will feature a presentation by legendary Syracuse University Men’s Lacrosse Coach, Roy Simmons Jr., on Sunday, March 12th at 2 pm. Strathmore resident and founder of the Syracuse University Law School’s Cold Case Initiative, Janis McDonald, will headline our third event about seeking justice for civil rights-era crimes on Thursday, April 13th at 7 pm. And new for the spring 2017 season – a fourth event! – will feature the Syracuse Parks Department on Celebrating 100 Years of Syracuse Parks on Thursday, May 18th at 7 pm.

All events are held in the Onondaga Park Firebarn and are free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Colgate and Ivory Tower’s Tim Byrnes and the League of Women Voters to Speak at the Firebarn

The Strathmore Speaker Series is proud to announce that Dr. Timothy A. Brynes and the League of Women Voters will speak on “Election 2016: How We Got Here and Where We’ll Go” at the Firebarn on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 at 7:00 pm. Like all Series events, this non-partisan presentation is free and open to the public.

Tim Byrnes

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Byrnes holds a bachelors degree from Le Moyne College and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. He is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science at Colgate University and chair of the Department of Political Science. He has held visiting faculty appointments at The Graduate Institute for International Affairs in Switzerland and Nicolas Copernicus University in Poland, and he is a past winner of Colgate’s Alumni Corporation’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Byrnes is the author of a number of books on the role of the Catholic Church in politics, among them Catholic Bishops in American Politics, Transnational Catholicism in Post Communist Europe, and most recently, Reverse Mission: Transnational Religious Communities and the Making of US Foreign Policy.

He has been a weekly panelist on WCNY-TV’s Ivory Tower for over ten years, and he also currently appears regularly on News Channel 9’s Newsmakers with Dan Cummings.

See Tim Byrnes discuss the second Presidential Debate.

The League of Women Voters

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The League of Women Voters of the Syracuse Metropolitan Area is a nonprofit and nonpartisan political organization encouraging the informed and active participation of citizens in government.

The League influences public policy through education and advocacy, with two separate and distinct roles:

Voters Service/Citizen: The League presents unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues

Action/Advocacy: The league is also nonpartisan, but, after study, it uses it’s positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest

Andrew Lunetta, Founder of A Tiny Home for Good, to Speak at the Firebarn

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The Strathmore Speaker Series is proud to announce that Andrew Lunetta, Founder and Executive Director of A Tiny Home for Good, Inc., will speak at the Strathmore Speaker Series on Thursday, October 13th, 2016 at 7:00 pm.

Lunetta, who lived in Syracuse as a child and attended Ed Smith Elementary through third grade, grew up in Massachusetts before returning to Syracuse in 2008 to attend Le Moyne College.  He graduated from Le Moyne in 2012 with a degree in Peach and Conflict Studies and went on to earn his Masters in Public Policy from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School in 2014.

Drawn to helping others since a gap year spent substitute teaching in Cleveland, Ohio through the AmeriCorps program, Lunetta quickly sought out ways to help others upon his return to Syracuse. As a freshman at Le Moyne, he started volunteering regularly at the Brady Faith Center, an organization which would eventually invite him to join its board. Through the center Lunetta became involved with helping the city’s homeless and quickly found his calling. He created a drop-in center, started a program that provides sandwiches, and began a bike give away program for the Center’s homeless patrons.

His involvement with the Center eventually led to the establishment of his latest endeavor, the A Tiny Home for Good project in 2014, which aims to provide affordable, safe and dignified housing for Syracuse’s homeless. With the help of volunteers, the project completed the construction of its first two homes on Rose Street in Syracuse earlier this year.

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Each modest home measures 12′ by 20′, and contains a single room that includes a living area, bed, kitchen, and bathroom. They also include a small outdoor shed to store they occupants’ bikes. Costing less than $25,000 each to construct and making use of already vacant lost, the project’s homes are a compelling alternative to VanKeuren Square, a state-of-the-art East Side housing complex for homeless vets that cost $11.4 million for 50 units, or $228,000 per apartment.

Since finishing his first two homes, Lunetta has begun construction of three new homes on South Salina Street which are expected to be completed this fall and plans are already in the works to build more new homes near the Rescue Mission.

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Sean Kirst on “Syracuse: What I loved, why I stayed, what still drives me wild”

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Writer and long-time Strathmore resident, Sean Kirst, will speak on Syracuse: What I loved, why I stayed, what still drives me wild at the Firebarn at 2 pm, Sunday, October 18th, 2015. The event is free and open to the public.

Since receiving his first paycheck as a journalist more than 38 years ago, Sean Kirst has built his writing career on his passion for the cities and countryside of Upstate New York. Before coming to Syracuse, Kirst worked for newspapers in Rochester, Niagara Falls, and his hometown, Dunkirk, New York. Kirst joined The Post-Standard/Syracuse Media Group as a writer in 1988 and became a columnist in 1991. Today his work focuses primarily on civic issues – often starting at the neighborhood level – involving struggle, hope and passage, the themes that dominate our Upstate lives.

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Photo from Newshouse.

In 2009, Kirst became the first Upstate journalist to win the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing, presented annually to the one journalist nationally who best personifies the approach and ethic of Pyle, the renowned World War II correspondent. In 2010, Kirst received both the national Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in column writing and the national Capitol Beat award for commentary, for his columns on state government in Albany. He has won two national Clarion Awards for opinion writing. Kirst has also been recognized by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors for his interactive involvement with readers, through his blog, and he has been honored by the U.S. Justice Department for sensitivity to victims of violent crime. In 2014, the Syracuse Press Club added his name to its Wall of Distinction.

Kirst is also the author of “The Ashes of Lou Gehrig,” a collection of baseball essays, and co-author of “Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd,” the autobiography of basketball Hall of Famer Earl Lloyd, who in 1950 became the first African-American to play in the National Basketball Association. The England-based Tolkien Society credits Kirst with proposing the worldwide Tolkien Reading Day that is now held every March, a celebration that always includes a gathering in Central New York.

Born in 1959, Kirst lives in Syracuse with his wife, Nora, a kindergarten teacher in the Syracuse city schools. They have three children: Sarah, Seamus and Liam.